SAN FRANCISCO--Mainstream U.S. wireless-phone subscribers are finally using the mobile Web, and everyone from handset makers to mobile operators to application developers to advertisers is gearing up to get a piece of the action.
The growing trend is likely to be a hot topic at the CTIA's Wireless IT & Entertainment trade show, which kicks off Wednesday and runs through Friday at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.
The show, which follows the industry's big gathering in the spring, is expected to attract more than 15,000 attendees, with some 250 companies exhibiting at the show.
The fall CTIA is really a show with dual personalities: one catering to a corporate information technology crowd and the other geared toward entertainment and advertising executives. This mix makes pulling out one central theme a bit of a challenge. But if a theme does exist at this year's show, it's likely that the mobile Web is finally taking off in the United States.
Out of the more than 255 million mobile-phone users in the States, more than 40 million actively use their handsets to surf the Web, according to Nielsen Mobile, which provides consumer research on the telecommunications and mobile-media markets. Nielsen analysts say the mobile Internet has hit a critical mass in the States, but it still has a lot of growth ahead of it.
Growth in the mobile Web is largely being fueled by faster networks. The major domestic cell phone operators have mostly completed building their 3G networks, with the exception of T-Mobile USA. And some, such as Sprint Nextel, are already moving on to a fourth-generation network.
As the 3G network footprints expand, and 4G services come online, users will get an even better surfing experience on their phones, which will lead to more adoption.
Craig McCaw, chairman of new nationwide WiMax network Clearwire, will be one of several speakers taking the stage Wednesday. Clearwire announced earlier this year that it's merging with Sprint Nextel's WiMax division. The venture has gained financial backing from major cable companies, as well as from Google and Intel. McCaw will likely give an update on the planned acquisition and talk about how his company has been growing its current WiMax service.
While faster networks are necessary to spur mobile Web usage, it's not the only element that's important to drive adoption. New multimedia and Web-capable phones that can operate on these faster networks are needed, as are new applications. To spur faster adoption, carriers have been talking about opening up their networks to get new devices and services on their networks more quickly.
During the opening keynote on Wednesday, CEOs from three of the top four wireless operators in the country will talk about how they are making their networks more open. Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless; Robert Dotson, CEO of T-Mobile USA; and Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel will sit down together in a panel discussion.
Also on Wednesday, Marco Boerries, executive vice president of Connected Life at Yahoo, will take the stage for a keynote address to talk about Yahoo's mobile initiatives. Although it's still early to call the major players, Yahoo has been positioning itself as a dominant player in the mobile market. Its Yahoo Mail is the most used site on the mobile Web, with 14 million unique visitors a month as of May 2008, according to Nielsen Mobile.… Read more